Nicholas Moore (1918 – 1986), the son of the philosopher G. E. Moore, was considered one of the major poets of his generation in the 1940s, but for various reasons fell out of favour in the 1950s. When the Sunday Times ran a competition in 1968 for translations of Baudelaire, Moore sent in 31 separate translations of one of the Spleen poems, Je suis comme le roi d’un pays pluvieux, mostly under eccentric pseudonyms: some anagrams – Alonso Moriche, Ion Lomas-Roche – others simply knockabout – H R Fixon-Boumphrey, W H Laudanum. These give an indication of the general tone of these translations, which is far from conventional. Moore felt that translation was almost always an inadequate representation of the original; by making different versions, he wrote, he could ‘in effect illustrate my own thesis of the impossibility of translation.’
In setting 10 of Moore’s versions I have embraced a similar stylistic diversity, sometimes serious, more often parodistic, occasionally introspective. Baudelaire’s original is a strange and exotic vision of decadence and ennui, and I can’t claim to have made an attempt to unravel its inner meaning or to have treated the poem as narrative. I have tried to match the often uninhibited, satirical mood of many of the translations, a challenge that was daunting but always stimulating.
I am very grateful to the Syndics of Cambridge University Library for permission to set Nicholas Moore’s poetry.
A Land of Rain was first performed by Claire Booth and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, conducted by Oliver Knussen, in June 2017 at the CBSO centre. It is written for soprano and emsemble of 17 players.
View the score (published by Faber Music)